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Evaluating QBs at NFL Combine

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Adam Caplan

Adam Caplan is our newest NFL reporter/insider at FOXSports.com. He has spent the past 10 seasons covering the league, specializing in player personnel, injuries and contracts.

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INDIANAPOLIS

Sunday marked the day the quarterbacks threw at the Scouting Combine.

Evaluating quarterbacks in this environment is not easy because they have not worked with these receivers before in most cases, so timing and anticipation will be off.

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What you’re looking for in this setting is release point, accuracy (to a certain degree), touch, follow through, arm strength and even footwork, which is still hard to judge because they rarely are asked to roll out or move around. Most of all, you want to see how the ball comes out of their hands. That gives you a pretty good idea of velocity.

However, you can’t judge traits such as field vision, pocket presence, ability to read a defense, decision making, leadership skills and other intangibles in this setting.

That said, Sunday was an important day and here an overview of the performances from 16 quarterbacks. (Highly touted prospect Blaine Gabbert of Missouri did not throw Sunday.)

1. Ryan Mallett, Arkansas: The strong-armed quarterback needed to have a great showing and he did just that. Mallett was easily the most impressive passer Sunday.

Mallett was much better in person than I thought he would be and so was his arm. He’s very effortless in his throwing, but that’s not a bad thing. He almost doesn’t realize how strong his arm is. But I would caution those watching at home about passers here. They are not going up against anyone and no one is coming at them.

The ball simply jumps out of his hand, but we kind of knew that coming in. Keep in mind his game tape is very inconsistent, so one throwing session isn’t going to change that, but he sure helped himself.

2. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada: Much like Mallett, Kaepernick’s passes were so effortless. He threw the nicest ball out of any of the quarterbacks here. He needs to work on his touch on some of the shorter passes and his delivery is slightly long, but I’m being as critical as I can with him.

While Kaepernick needs to fill out physically and could be set back a bit because of the college scheme he played in, he also has great tools. Nothing that has happened since his great Senior Bowl week performance has changed my mind. He will be a rock solid second-round pick.

3. Christian Ponder, Florida State: I seemed to be in the minority during Senior Bowl week when I wrote that I thought he was really impressive at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala. Well, Ponder followed that up and did well again in Indianapolis.

He can make most every throw that a quarterback will be asked to make in the NFL. You can really see how he can drive the ball off his back foot on his three-quarter release to get power into his passes.

I’ll still leave him with a third-round grade, but his draft stock probably will be decided for not as much as he’s done on the field. It will come down to his medical grade from teams.

4. Andy Dalton, TCU: You won’t find a more technically sound quarterback in the draft than Dalton. He has tremendous touch on shorter throws. Those who criticize him have to understand that he does not possess great arm strength. If you were expecting to see that during his throwing session, you were going to be disappointed. However, he showed surprisingly good touch on deeper downfield sideline throws, which really isn’t a facet of his game that he’s asked to work on much.

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Again, you have to understand what Dalton is and what he isn’t. He’s not and never will be a power thrower although his arm is capable of getting stronger over time. What he is, at this point, is a guy who is a rhythm passer and he’s path to playing will be shorter than most because he’s so technically proficient. If you watch the Rose Bowl, you will know exactly what I mean.

NFL Films’ Greg Cosell was very complimentary about Dalton after watching him throw Sunday. He compared him very favorably to New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

5. Jake Locker, Washington: After a horrendous showing during Senior Bowl week practices, Locker did a much better job of throwing with accuracy and touch. While he missed an occasional pass, Locker did a nice job of throwing with power down field. He certainly helped himself a bit, but his game tape still shows that he needs to be more consistently accurate.

6. Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin: While he’s projected to be a late-round selection, Tolzien threw the ball really well in the intermediate to shorter areas. Teams understand he’s not going to wow anyone with power throws. He’s more of a game manager, but the right-handed passer really helped himself with a solid showing.

7. Pat Devlin, Delaware: While Devlin had an up-and-down throwing session, I was impressed with the touch he had on the ball. Devlin, who is known in scouting circles as a rhythm passer, showed that Sunday.

8. Josh Portis, California (Pa.): He’s another small-school performer who equated himself quite well. While Portis missed some throws, he also made some very strong passes which were right on the intended target’s hands.

Cosell told me he also was impressed with him. And anytime Cosell is impressed with a quarterback, take note because he’s rarely wrong about their long-term potential.

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9. T.J. Yates, North Carolina: He was a pleasant surprise. While doesn’t possess a gun for an arm, he made a bunch of nice throws during his time on the field.

Yates, to me, looks like he does on tape. He’s not going to wow anyone, but he’s a guy you can draft late and expect him to develop into a decent backup quarterback for many years to come.

10. Cam Newton, Auburn: No one can doubt his arm strength, but his accuracy was poor. Newton tended to throw the ball a little more away from his body than most of the quarterbacks at the Combine, so the passes often went wide or high of his intended target.

The bottom line: Newton is still a raw prospect who needs a lot of work. Anyone who selects him knows he will be holding a clipboard and a pen for at least the first season.

11. Nate Enderle, Idaho: Enderle sure looks the part because he has good size and can throw the ball with power. But his accuracy was inconsistent during the throwing session. He holds the ball a bit lower than most quarterbacks, which causes him to take a little longer to get the out of his hands.

Enderle is yet another quarterback here who looks much better on tape, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since game tape is the most important factor in evaluating this position.

12. Jeff Van Camp, Florida Atlantic: While his accuracy was a bit inconsistent, Van Camp opened some eyes with some of his solid throws downfield.

The raw prospect helped himself a bit just because he was able to get in front of NFL personnel evaluators.

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13. Ricky Stanzi, Iowa: Stanzi’s performance was disappointing from an overall standpoint because he tended to aim the ball on many of his throws. He didn’t look like a natural thrower, which is a little bit of a surprise. He had better touch on his shorter passes. But I’ll say this about him: He looks much better on tape. He also performed much better during Senior Bowl-week practices.

14. Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M: His accuracy was all over the place during the throwing session, as was his touch on the ball, but Johnson still possesses good arm strength.

Scouts like that he’s well built for the position, but he’s still a raw prospect.

15. Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech: Taylor was pretty average during his time on the field. He did nothing to stand out. He threw with inconsistent accuracy and timing. The upside is that his college tape is much better than his performance on the field at the Combine.

16. Ryan Colburn, Fresno State: Colburn reminded me of former Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield. Colburn was accurate on his shorter throws, but any past 15 yards had the receivers waiting for the ball.

Colburn is a quarterback who will look much better on tape because he has a good feel for the pocket. He’s not a "wow” thrower who will impress you in shorts and a T-shirt.

Tagged: Jets

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